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Neal Martineau: from Madison Avenue to New Street

By Staff | Jan 9, 2009

Neal Delano Martineau

Time Magazine has called David Ogilvy “The Father of Advertising” and “The most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.” It was the 60s, and Ogilvy was world-famous for expanding the bounds of advertising in both creativity and morality. “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it,” he said. “Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine, and we shall become a company of giants.”

Ogilvy lived by that code of standards and his company, Ogilvy & Mather, became a giant.

At the end of the sixties David Ogilvy hired Neal Martineau.

Neal was ensconced on “Mad Ave.” for the next 15 years writing advertising copy and winning new business continually inspired by Ogilvy’s tenet to “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read.”

He proceeded to work his way to the top as VP/Creative Supervisor and won a record number of the legendary David Ogilvy Awards for OM’s AT&T, Pepperidge Farm, Dove Soap, and Rums of Puerto Rico campaigns. To this day Dove still promises it “contains one quarter cleansing cream.” Neal Martineau’s entire career has been in memorable advertising and though he is also an artist and an author, being a Mad Man is his game.

At the height of the Depression, Cyril Francis Martineau met Margery Sample when he transferred with Shell Oil from England to Oakland, California. They fell in love, got married and had a little boy, Neal Delano. Both the San Francisco girl and the young Brit were from, as they say, “good families” and this, coupled with the Depression and WWII, made for a very interesting childhood for their young son. On his dad’s side there was a linage of Delanos and Robins. Neal’s great grandmother Katherine and FDR’s mother Sarah were sisters. His grandmother, Muriel, was married to a Robins, of the McKesson-Robins pharmaceutical kingdom. Margery was the descendant of western pioneers. Her relatives were ranching real estate people at a time when it was really good to be in real estate in California and Nevada.

“I was born in Oakland,” Neal said. “But we went to live at my grandmother’s in England soon after because my father was transferred to South America for a year.” Landermere Hall in Essex was grandma’s house, and if you can fall in love with a house at the age of two, Neal did. Landermere Hall was one of those magical old estates in the English countryside about which Merchant & Ivory movies were made. It was a world of quiet elegance, lavish parties and formal gardens. Neal lived the life until his father returned from South America, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army and took his family to live on a farm in Toronto. This would definitely qualify as a contrast in lifestyles.

On Aug. 19, 1942, Canadian units, British Royal Marine Commando’s and Royal Navy ships launched an attack on the French port of Dieppe. About 6,000 men landed on the beaches. At the end of the day, 900 men had been killed on the Allied side. Historians say the battle was sheer suicide. Cyril’s regiment was totally wiped out at Dieppe and his family, which now included another little boy, Warren, thought he was dead. Months went by before they got word that he had been enlisted as Chief Gunnery School Instructor for the Canadian Army before Dieppe and hadn’t landed with the regiment. Cyril’s tour of duty lasted six years and Margery took her boys back to California to await his return. After different towns, several schools and not much fun, at the age of 8, Neal hit pay dirt.

“We settled in Palo Alto for the duration of the war. It was a town way ahead of itself with Stanford and the civic center and it was Shangri-La for kids.” Those were the days when an 8-year-old could take off on his bike for the whole day with his friends and no one called the police. It was a great way to live and some of the best memories children of that era have are of doing just that. Neal did just that for the next four years. He loved everything – the beauty of the California hills, the university climate, his school and his friends.

He admitted “I’ve been searching for another Palo Alto since then.”

Neal’s father returned to his family a Major in the Canadian Royal Army. After missing so much time with his family Cyril just “wanted to be a Dad.” And he did not want his boys brought up in England. “I was in junior high when my father returned from the war,” remembers Neal. “I was so proud of him.” Soon after, Cyril bought an old bomb rack and an army surplus van and converted the whole thing into a camper with bunks and windows and the works. The family would take camping trips to Lake Tahoe. Neal said “It was heaven.” They went for the summer to camp out and ride horses and swim. They made up for lost time in spades and the little boy’s loving relationship with his father lasted a lifetime. Cyril Martineau died in his son’s arms at the age of 92.

Neal went to Canoga Park High School near Los Angeles where he discovered tennis. He was elected to the student government and discovered public speaking, and he discovered how much you can learn when you go to school every day with kids from every imaginable background. After graduation he went off to Princeton on a Regents Scholarship, got As and Fs, acted up and flunked out. He enlisted in the Army. Two years later he went back to Princeton, settled down and graduated cum laude in 1958 with a BA in English. His senior thesis was on Virginia Wolfe entitled “To Catch Mrs. Brown” for which he won top honors. The paper remains in the Firestone Library today. From Princeton he went to the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency in New York City where he worked with another young copywriter, Fred Gwynne. Gwynne soon ditched writing for acting to become Herman Munster to a global TV audience.

Living on Riverside Drive in the early 60s, Neal found himself in the congressional district of John Lindsay. So taken with Lindsay, a liberal Republican, as were many young people of the day, he canvassed neighborhoods in Lindsay’s district and his travels took him into the South Bronx. There Neal had many a political discussion with the mostly African American population. “I loved the one-on-one talks we had. And I learned a lot about issues that were really important from some people who were certainly more up on them than I was.” In the meantime he had moved over to Compton Advertising as VP, Copy Supervisor. An early marriage that produced two beautiful daughters, Laura and Lisa, had come apart and Neal made a career move to Ogilvy. Shortly after, in what he calls “a stroke of genius” he made a lifetime move when he met “an absolute knockout,” Patty Jamison, fresh from Vassar, and a native of Hagerstown, Maryland. Patty and Neal were married in 1966 and they had two exquisite daughters, Paige and Sarah, and moved to a “Landermere” of their own in Tuxedo Park, NY. From there, Neal made his mark at Ogilvy, taught copywriting at NYU and served on the Tuxedo Park town council.

In 1985, the Martineaus moved to Atlanta where Neal served as VP, Copy Supervisor for another ad giant BBD&O on the flagship Delta Airline account. While Patty was professionally decorating Atlanta, Neal’s work was deemed one of the best 10 commercials of that year by Advertising Age and won an Addy for Best in Show. He then returned to Ogilvy/Atlanta and three years later Neal and Patty moved back up north to be nearer family. Their daughters had all settled in the Northeast and between them had six children.

While visiting Patty’s family in Hagerstown they met good friends of the Page Jamison, John Shank and Joe Matthews. It was John and Joe, and their friend Lou Cox, who introduced the Martineaus to Shepherdstown. Neal had finally found that long sought “Shangri-La” from his childhood. Despite the differences in his heart the feel was the same. “Shepherdstown is the Palo Alto of the East.”

They met with realtor Henry Shepherd who told them the list of historic homes for sale was limited. Neal asked, “How many do you have?” Henry said “One.” So in 2004 the Martineaus bought the “one” – a 200 plus year-old imposing federal colonial on New Street and began putting their impeccable mark on both house and gardens. You can tell Patty was a professional decorator, their place is homey and perfectly exquisite.

Neal wasted no time getting involved with creative purpose. Whether it was zoning issues, the arts, the town budget, or protecting surrounding farmlands, it was impossible not to know how he felt and where he stood. He served on the Town Council, as liaison to the County Commission, the Planning Commission, Tree Commission, Streetscape Commission and on the SU Music Department Board. Today, while Patty lends her time and talents to the Shepherdstown Day Care Center as an active Board member, Neal continues with his art, a video study of dance, and his writing.

Neal Martineau is anything but wishy washy, which at times has made him a lightning rod for controversy. But this man is no stranger to the unpopular stance and takes it when he deems it necessary. Whether it’s championing the underdog in school, or fighting for an edgy advertising concept, or being the outspoken figure in town meetings, when he believes in something, you know it. In a recent biographical piece he wrote for Princeton explaining his renewed involvement in a zoning dispute, as he had been in Tuxedo Park, he said, “Why again? Because I don’t want to die drooling in a wheelchair. I want to be shot by a rabid developer.” That’s Neal.

– Sue Kennedy is a former public relations executive and Emmy Award winning screenplay writer.